Just when you think you’ve heard all the tricks scammers get up to, along comes a new one.
I recently attended a business event in a hotel with a good friend of mine. The event was totally above board but what happened during was interesting. First of all, my friend noticed he’d lost mobile phone reception. He thought this was odd but assumed it was because we were in a windowless room. However, at the end of the day, outside the hotel, he realised his phone was still offline.
So he contacted his phone company – and it was just as well he did.
It turned out that someone had walked into one of the company’s stores and pretended to be him. The impersonator said the SIM had been lost. A trusting telco employee provided a new SIM, which was promptly inserted in a different phone and used to move the account to another telco (which explains why my friend lost phone service).
It gets worse. The scammer got into my friend’s emails. Fake social media accounts were set up and his contacts were spammed. Fortunately, my friend spotted what was happening and alerted his bank before anything more serious went down.
It was just as well he did, because he had recently received a large sum of money. He quickly froze the account and breathed a sigh of relief.
You could call this a lucky escape, and in a sense it was. But bear in mind that my friend then had to go through the rigmarole of re-establishing direct debits, automatic payments and other financial arrangements. He also had to spend a lot of time contacting and explaining the situation to friends and business associates.
For me, the episode underlined just how dependent we’ve become on the information sitting in our email inboxes. We’re hugely vulnerable if malicious people gain access to this trove of personal data. I thought I was aware of all the usual scams – never click on a link in an unsolicited email; never share passwords; never use an unknown computer. But now I’ve learned that something as simple as a mobile phone going offline can be a sign that criminals are sniffing around.
Perhaps we should follow the example of the banks. Their systems and protocols assume you’re dodgy until proven otherwise. As individuals, we may need to adopt the same philosophy.
We put an awful lot of trust in logins and user-friendly software. It only takes one privacy breach to realise we need to be much more careful.
Have you had anything similar happen to you? What did you learn from it? I’d love to know.
Would you like to work with Sue to get the most from your money? Get in touch.